Renaming Schools Named After Confederate Leaders

Yahoo! News - Educators Debate Efforts to Rename Schools

I grew up in Alabama and attended public schools, but the schools were all named after the community. First was Westside Elementary, on the west side of town. Then the elementary system was fully integrated in my fifth grade year (some African Americans lived on the west side and attended with us, but most were at US Jones Elementary across town). So for a year and a half, I attended US Jones. Then off to Demopolis Middle and High School (until the eleventh grade, when I headed off to Birmingham and the Alabama School of Fine Arts). So my community was less stubborn than others about the entire segregation question.

The high school in particular had integrated early on. I recall being told that several influential students remained in the public system when a white flight was threatened in Demopolis. They retained their friends and the public schools thrived.

We did have a white flight school, Demopolis Academy, and I attended the first grade there because I just missed the cutoff date being old enough for public schools. I can remember going to the 12th grade classroom before classes and reading to them from their textbooks. Perhaps I was a precocious little thing, but I wasn't reading at a 12th grade level by any means! Second grade took me straight to Westside, though I'm surprised that my "credits" transferred!

My personal feeling on all things Confederate is that these people should be honored by those who wish to honor them. I don't feel that need myself - they fought for their homes and their way of life, but both were maintained on the backs of slavery. Even those who had no slaves and fought for the South were fighting for an agrarian, slave-based economy. Still, they are the ancestors of many people in the South, and they deserve some respect for that, at least. But the schools would be better named after people who represent progress for the community, and not stagnation in the past.

There are plenty of African American leaders whose names could grace these buildings. Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth are just three names that come to mind. How about Helen Keller? Albert Einstein and Galileo are just as appropriate. Heck, I'd prefer to see Ronald Reagan's name replace every Confederate leader on a Southern school - at least they'd be updated.

But how to do it? Well, start talking about how it ought to be done. That's what's going on here, and the process will take care of itself.